LEDs: A Natural Fit for Boating|
LED lights have come a long way since their introduction into the marine industry. Rapid advancements in technology coupled with innovative designs have resulted in LEDs capturing a growing segment of the marine lighting equipment industry, with boat manufacturers now incorporating them into their new designs as a part of their standard equipment. LED lights have gained this popularity for several reasons, not the least of which is their high energy efficiency, making them an excellent choice for applications where the availability of electrical power is limited by the size of the craft.
The biggest concern for boaters who enjoy nighttime runs, whether they are fishing jaunts or pleasure trips, is the efficient management of onboard electrical power. There are plenty of horror stories out there about the mistakes and misguided attempts of skippers who were either trying to increase their boat's ability to generate electricity, or spent small fortunes on the latest and greatest gadgets that were supposed to lower onboard energy consumption, but instead only lowered their cash reserves. Despite these tales of woe, improving a boat’s energy efficiency is easier than ever thanks to the technological advances in LED lighting that have been made in the last ten years.
Especially in the cruising sailboat industry, an efficient electrical system has become more important than ever. Onboard equipment that relies on a steady source of electrical power has increased markedly in proliferation, adding to the already heavy demands created by standard equipment such as navigation lights, anchor lights, cabin fans, and radar. The basic premise is usually to create a balance between energy usage and generation, while maintaining a steady current under all operating conditions. With the addition of added electrical accessories and equipment such as computers, televisions, satellite systems and other luxury items, creating this balance is more important and difficult than ever.
The most common tactic resorted to in seeking to achieve this goal of a balanced electrical system is increasing the electrical system's power generating capability. This is an understandable, but sometimes unnecessary and cumbersome approach, since modern technology offers equipment that can substantially lower overall power requirement totals and at much less expense.
Aside from electrically powered motors, one of the biggest draws on a boat's electrical reserves is its nighttime lighting equipment. Navigation lighting, interior illumination, and anchor lights all present a steady and sometimes heavy draw on electrical systems, and usually cannot be compromised on because of legal and safety concerns. Bulky generators, bigger batteries, and higher amperage alternators represent the usual answers to increased energy loads created by the heavy demands of a well-equipped modern watercraft. Often overlooked however, is lowering the overall energy demands of this equipment itself.
LED lights, upon their introduction into the commercial marine marketplace, were quickly recognized as a possible effective solution to the ever-growing demands of boat’s electrical requirements. Early incarnations however, were met with skepticism and criticisms that at times were well founded. Problems with the directional properties of LEDs, the quality and color of the light they create, and a lack of knowledge regarding their special properties led many a boat owner to dismiss them as viable lighting alternatives to traditional illumination equipment. Fortunately, these problems are no longer as much of a concern, as LED manufacturers have made great progress in creating LED lights that are no more difficult to use than standard incandescents.
Better materials, improved circuitry, and advancement in diode designs have vastly improved the quality of modern led lights over their original incarnations. As recently as five years ago, LEDs were still considered with skepticism and concern, but as advancements in technology have progressed, LEDs have almost doubled in efficiency and light output every year, resulting in current designs that far surpass common incandescent lights in every respect. Boating enthusiasts have been quick to notice this improvement, and LEDs are now fast becoming the preferred choice for marine applications.
Cabin lighting is an area where substantial improvements can be realized by replacement of incandescent bulbs with LEDs. The Larson Electronics Waterproof LED Boat Light - LED Task Light - LED Cockpit Light - LED Interior Cabin Light represents an excellent choice for interior illumination in marine applications, where compact size and high efficiency are preferred. Drawing only 280mA at twelve volts DC, this light is capable of illuminating forty feet of cabin space with a wide flood pattern. The current draw of an LED lamp like the LED Task Light is on average estimated to be sixty to seventy-five percent lower than the standard halogen bulb it would replace. Total conversion of primary cabin illumination alone from halogens to the LED Task Lights would thus represent a huge reduction in overall current demand. In fact, one of the most common observations from boat owners who have changed their entire lighting system from halogen to LEDs is that their boats amp meters barely register the load on the electrical system when the LED lights are switched on.
Added value from installation of the LED Task Light can be found in its longevity. Like all other LEDs, vast increases in the lamp's lifespan can be expected compared to that of standard halogens. This makes realization of cost reductions readily apparent in a short amount of time, as the additional costs normally associated with halogen bulb replacement are greatly reduced. This gives the LED Task Lights the benefit of not only improving the electrical efficiency of the lighting system, but its cost efficiency as well.
Resiliency and durability are also leading factors in considering an upgrade from halogen cabin lamps, and LEDs outperform them in this area as well. Halogens are fragile, and any contamination from handling can destroy a halogen bulb within seconds of its being switched on. LEDs on the other hand are quite durable and have no such contamination considerations. The Larson Electronics LED Task Light’s lamp is housed within an unobtrusive assembly that is both waterproof and weatherproof. There is no handling of the light emitting apparatus itself necessary and its water and weather tight construction means chances for any kind of contamination are virtually eliminated. For regular operation in a marine environment, this is a basic must have requirement for any electrical equipment.
The LED Task Lamp is also fully directional. It is constructed with a ball and socket mounting system that is intended for flush mounting to a flat surface. This gives the operator full control over the direction of the light, making it ideal for function-specific applications as well as primary interior lighting. It can serve as a cockpit light, cabin light, and even in non-marine applications if so desired. It can be installed as overhead lighting, or inside of closets, just about anywhere that efficient and effective illumination in a small space is needed.
LED lights are helping to quickly usher in the obsolescence of the standard incandescent bulb. Their low energy requirements, durable design, and compact dimensions make them an obvious choice for any situation where space and energy is limited, and their longevity erases any concerns over initial cost outlays. In marine applications, limited energy and space constraints are the norm, making the advantages of LEDs a natural fit. Perhaps most advantageous of all, LED lights represent an excellent option for improving electrical efficiency in marine applications. Rather than simply compensating for increased electrical demand by increasing electrical supply, a simpler and more cost-effective alternative can realized by simply switching from energy-hungry incandescent lamps, to low-draw LEDs, without bearing the burden of an expensive electrical system upgrade.